cricketmuse

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “Good Reads”

Reading Round Up: January


January. If I could somehow whisk myself away to a warmer clime, one with no snow, and a proclivity towards blue sky. Just for January. That’s right–January is my least favorite winter month. The day job requires I stick around, so I combat my winter blues with copious book reading. January racked up 17 books. I’ll highlight the hits.

Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life by William Deresiewicz

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Absolutely provoking, yet falls short of being truly inspirational due to a tendency to bring in too much personal angst. While the author’s experience has meritable points, that an elite education tends to prepare graduates for being stellar at certain aspects, such as being lawyers or being English professors, it falls short at mundane abilities i.e. talking to tradesmen. But that isn’t everyone’s experience, and the point he makes unravels into an unfortunate profanity-laced rant in the last few chapters.

The first half of the book is the most effective, and by the numerous sticky notes I flagged in this section, made the most impact. An abundance of worthy passages on what a college education should be in found the first half; however, the second half of the book becomes more or less conjecture, and loses traction.

Overall, an effective thesis concerning the value of an elite education, give or take a few moments of ranting. No shame in a state university diploma after all.

The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Continuing right from where the first book left off, Ada relates her story of adjusting to life in Kent during WWII. Much stays the same, the hardships of war, the loss, the deprivation; however, Ada sees many changes as well: her foot surgery is successful, Susan becomes her legal guardian, they must live with Lady Thornton in one of the estate cottages, and Ruth, a German Jewish girl, comes to stay with them.

Ada still struggles with the shadows of her past life in London, but is slowly learning to open her heart to the good things that come her way.

A bit faltering in the beginning, yet once the strong characterization and plot take hold as in the first book, Bradley’s sequel is just as riveting. It’s hoped Ada’s story will continue.

The Warrior Maiden by Melanie Dickerson

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

A reimagining, rather than a retelling of the Chinese folktale of Mulan, Dickerson’s version is set in 15th century Lithuania.

In this version, Mulan is the illegitimate daughter of Mikolai, a warrior father who has died. Mulan serves as a warrior to save her mother from becoming homeless, and to escape from an unwelcome arranged marriage.

The first half of the plot relates Mulan’s adventures as a soldier. With realistic detail, Mulan struggles to meet the demands of fighting amongst men, while trying to hide her identity. During battle she meets and becomes friends with Wolfgang, a duke’s son. Inevitably their friendship develops into something deeper once Wolfgang discovers why he is attracted to and is protective of the young soldier known as Mikolai.

Unfortunately, the second half of the story becomes enmeshed in being more of a romance novel than the adventure story of the first part. Attention to historical detail and the smooth rendering of the multiple points of view, tip this more towards a four star than a three star review.

This story refers to characters from the previous book in the Hagerheim series, yet it can be read as a standalone.

The publisher provided a free copy in exchange for a review, with all opinions being mine.

Eye of the Crow by Shane Peacock

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

What of the boy Sherlock Holmes? So little is known of who or what he might have been like, that it is fair game to improvise, and maybe take liberties in creating his backstory.

This is the case in Eye Of The Crow, the first in a series about Sherlock Holmes as a boy. Shane Peacock, an obvious admirer of Doyle’s famed detective, has provided a fast-paced supposition of young Holmes.

Smartly written, and full of action, as well as memorable characters, Peacock provides a worthwhile read.

Prince Not So Charming by Roy L Hinuss

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

What happens when you cross a reluctant prince with a reluctant dragon? Answer: You get a book that fractures the fairytale motif with humor and fast action.

Mike Allegra, writing under the nom de plume of Roy L. Hignuss, presents the first book in a series highlighting Carlos, a prince of a kid who would rather grow up entertaining the court than ruling it.

Throw in some potty humor (because what kid doesn’t appreciate how “duty” sounds like, well you get the idea) and a dragon who shirks his fiery calling, along with royal parents who totally don’t get their son, and a new favorite is shelf ready.

This is a recommendation for those young readers transitioning from early readers to chapter books. A fun read with whimsical drawings.

Rewired by Ajay Seth

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Providence can be the only explanation for the series of events that starts with an infected raccoon bite and leads to an experimental procedure that changes the field of prosthetics.

Dr. Ajay Seth. a professed small town surgeon from Ohio, relates the case of Melissa Loomis through a conversational narrative which includes personal anecdotes that add a warmth to his story. What really stands out is the quiet faith that radiates through Dr. Seth’s writing, as his patient puts her trust in him, and as the doctor acknowledges how the events were beyond coincidence.

More than another medical miracle book, this is a story of exploring options and celebrating victories when defeat seems imminent.

Disclaimer: The publisher provided this book exchange for a review, with all opinions being mine.

Advertisements

Reading Roundup: November


The flurry of December’s Debatable Reindeer vs Penguin sidelined my usual attention to reviewing previous monthly reads. Here’s the scoop for November:

Pilgrim’s Progress by Gary Schmidt

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Pilgrim’s Progress is a classic appreciated for its allegory of the walk one makes in faith and belief. It would be difficult to improve upon it, yet Gary Schmidt creates a version for contemporary audiences that deserves noted acclaim for keeping the original message intact while providing a more approachable format.

Barry Moser’s agreeable, stunning watercolor illustrations aptly and deftly accompany Schmidt’s retelling.

Appropriate for middle readers, yet probably more appreciated by adults who remember the original Bunyan version.

Nowhere to be Found by Emily Thomas

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Irresistibly drawn to series that combines creating a library in a renovated house plus a cozy mystery. An enjoyable, undemanding read that combines Christian values with a well-paced plot.

Whisper by Lynette Noni

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

This is one of those books that is so captivating that finding a place to bookmark for the night is difficult. Best to start earlier than later in the day.

The first 100 pages are spellbinding. Jane, as in Jane Doe, a young woman is being held prisoner in a secret facility. She suffers silently because she refuses to speak to anyone. This is not only because of sheer determination, but because JD is afraid to do so. In her case, words do have power.

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

It’s a quick, quiet, uneventful cadence of vignettes with the theme of a grandmother and her young granddaughter circumnavigating each other’s quirks while living on an island for the summer. Being Finnish in original intent changes some of the dynamics of the characters, yet the bond between the adult and child holds well.

The Shattered Tree by Charles Todd

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Written by a son and mother team, this is #8 in an ongoing series about Bess Crawford, a nurse who likes to solve mysteries.

An intriguing idea to have a WWI nurse solve a tangled mystery involving a wounded soldier of dubious identity. Unfortunately, the plot becomes muddled with confusing details such as too many suspects with similar names, and the device of Bess, the protagonist, running around annoying people with her questions while healing from her wounds received at the front. The mystery itself proved intriguing, yet the solving was drawn out

much too long. The characters are agreeable and the writing is accomplished enough to look into other books in the series at some point.

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

One problem with experiencing the movie before the book is that so many book scenes become overlaid with cinematic scenes. Clare is Rachel McAdams and Henry is Eric Bana while I read and I’m annoyed when the author changes things up character and plot wise. Then again, she had it all mapped out first. Lesson: read the book first.

Review wise: interesting beginning, muddled middle, and melodramatic ending. Not a romance book fan, and without the time traveler gimmick this would not have kept my attention, as the plot device of a woman constantly waiting for her ideal man to return to her is a metaphorical irritation after awhile.The swearing and sex scenes detracted instead of added to the plot. At one point the characters ask if their sex life is normal. Well, if you have to ask…

Alba, their daughter, makes it worthwhile to finish out the ending. I’m rooting for a sequel with Alba working out her own time traveling agenda.

Yearly Stats: a Good Reads bit of this and a bit of that


I really like this time of year. It’s not because of all the tinsel, lights, and cute kid Christmas programs (you should have seen the cow costumes–I even threatened to be annoying and hold up my iPhone and film the little critters singing away around the manger). I do appreciate and cherish the Reason for the Season. That’s an absolute. But I’m not “gotta go see the newest batch of Hollywood mega-movies” or a “hit the slopes!” warrior. Nope, I like all the pretties the various web sites I subscribe to send me, my stats for this year. At the top is Good Reads.

The tidbit I’m setting down here does not do their full display justice. They make it look like I’ve really contributed something spectacular by reading. Like reading is as special as I think it is.

TOTALS as 12/12/17–I do wish they would do a grand sum picture, but then I guess those little Good Reads elves need time off to go help out the jolly guy up North.

I read 32,438 pages across 112 books

Will's Words: How William Shakespeare Changed the Way You Talk

Good Reads images (for all)

SHORTEST BOOK

40 pages
Will’s Words: How William Shakespeare Changed the Way You Talk
by Jane Sutcliffe
One of those wonderful picture books that are just so amazing in illustrations and textual info that I can’t help but boldly go where adults usually don’t–the kiddos need to learn to share, right?
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
LONGEST BOOK
566 pages
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
by David Wroblewski
Another Shakespeare book. This is a contemporary retelling of Hamlet. Quite astute in following the plot, yet it is definitely it’s own story. It deserves the praise it has received.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
MOST POPULAR
3,781,416

people also read

The Great Gatsby
by F. Scott Fitzgerald
LEAST POPULAR
2

people also read

Edward Lear: Selected Letters
by Edward Lear
Poor Edward, he didn’t even rate a cover image. The man who brought us all those pithy limericks and nonsense poems like “The Owl and the Pussycat” actually lived a fascinately dull life. Explore that paradox by reading this collection.
The Great Good Thing by Andrew Klavan
HIGHEST RATED ON GOODREADS and First Review of the Year
The Great Good Thing: A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ
by Andrew Klavan
4.48 average
An autobiography of sorts of how a secular Jew came to his belief in Jesus. This is not an easy journey for someone to leave their cultural traditions because it causes such strong rifts in the family as well. Told well, as Klavan is an engaging writer.
Overall? It was a fabulous year of reading. I tried out new-to-me books, recommends, reread old favorites, and surpassed my goal of 101 books two years in a row. This shocks most of my students since many struggle to get one book read in a quarter for their book report. And yet, when they see me reading right along with them during our 10 minute SSR, I am hoping they see that I am reading different types of books, a variety of books of length and subject, and that I like reading books. Maybe they can find their way out of social media for a while and get lost in a book.
One someday goal is to be posterized along with all those notable folk, like Sean Connery, who smile down from the library walls holding up theirs book of choice. There I will be, holding up that someday bestseller cow joke book, the caption will read. “Cricket Muse is out standing in the field of reading.”

Reading Challenge Update


I nearly doubled my Good Reads Challenge goal and with the year starting to approach closer to the  deadline I have been wondering if I overreached my ability to meet it. A bit of hubris snuck in with my page turning, I suppose.

Well, those good folks at Good Reads have been quietly watching my progress and sent me an encouragrment:

 

2016 Reading Challenge

Hi Cricket,

The end of the year is fast approaching—let’s check in on your 2016 Reading Challenge.Congrats, you’re ahead of schedule!

You’ve read 86 of 101 books. (85% complete)

22,871

Pages Read

1

Audiobook

3.89

Average Rating


Surprise!
I just might make my 2016 Reading Challenge after all. With some quick calculations and the Good Reads Count Down calendar, I have 15 more books to go in 77 days. Can she really and truly make it?

Anyone rooting for me?

Hey–I’m open to suggestions. Click on the link above and check out my titles. See one missing you think I just absolutely must have? I actually get most of my reading suggestions from my blogster Book Boosters.

Anyone else in the midst of a reading challenge ?

Another Year of Interesting Words


Keeping track of words learned is becoming as much of a habit as keeping track of books read. Learning words definitely is result of reading books. I wonder if there is a cousin Good Reads tracker app for Good Words yet. No doubt there is. Or maybe the next dot com app millionaire is in the wings. There is a untapped market for word nerds.

My method is fairly Neanderthal. I’m basically in hunter gatherer mode as I set forth daily upon the plains of learning. That is a bit much, isn’t it? Actually, it’s more or less serendipity. When reading, and I come across words of interest, I type them into my phone in my notes under the file Vocabulary. And like the Guardians of the Galaxy Collector, I keep them there so I can view them.  Some are prettier than others, while some are rare and exotic, and some I take out of my collection and begin implementing, realizing their worth increases with continuous use.

Here are some live captures. For interest, I state where I captured the lexical little beastie.

 The Year of Lear by James Shapiro

  • recusant: a person who refuses to submit to an authority or to comply with a regulation. [Lots of Catholic/Protestant tussling going on in England around 1606]

The Victorian Life: Modern Adventures in Nineteenth Century Culture, Cooking, Fashion, and Technology by Sarah A. Chrisman

  • quotidian: of, or occurring every day; daily [a 21st century woman choosing a 19th century lifestyle would get used to the daily routine of repetive tasks such bread making]

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. NOTE: as long as keep teaching the novel I keep rereading it, and yet I still find new words. Fascinating.

  • deglutition: process of swallowing
  • celerity: swiftness of movement

Emma (The Austen Project #3) by Alexander McCall Smith

  • impedimenta: equipment for an activity or expedition, especially when considered as bulky or an encumbrance [this one I’m willing to trot out and air as in addressing my students, “Excuse me, your impedimenta is blocking the aisle.”]
  • canard: unproven rumor or story

This next batch mainly derive their existence and capture from the books of D.E. Stevenson. It is an on-going project to read her legacy of 40 novels (give or take a couple of Mrs. Tim’s). She’s primarily writing about Scottish and English life pre-WWII to 1975. It’s been interesting to see which words she favors and which words were in vogue during the span of her long career. She did favor the sprinkling of French.

  • ructions: a disturbance or quarrel [“ruckus” a relative?]
  • pourboire: a gratuity or tip
  • cavil: make petty or unnecessary objections
  • muckle: to cover inanimate objects in glitter in a vain attempt to make them appealing enough to buy [Mike Allegra dislikes muckley Christmas cards]
  • gaucherie: a tactless or awkward act
  • vaunted: highly praised
  • pied-a-terre: a temporary or second residence [very handy for the dismal months of winter glum]
  • arriviste: a social climber, a blunder

Do you collect words while reading? 

Reading Challenge Met!


2015 Reading Challenge

I signed on with GoodReads mainly to keep track of my books. I so enjoy being spared of the agonizing “Okay, it had a yellow cover and the author only published this one novel…” or some such scenario of “which one and who wrote it.” GR has become my tidy little techno Rolodex of titles.

While keeping track of my books is indeed a boon for this Book Booster, I realized after reading other people’s blogs I was missing out on one other amazing feature (there are still quite a few I’m discovering): The Reading Challenge.

This feature has completely revved up my reading habits. Even though I am voracious reader, I am usually unaware of my volume. Not that it matters, but I would like to know how many books I go through in the course of a year, just because. It’s not that I’m addicted to reading, yet I notice when I don’t have a book to read I’m not feeling quite aligned. For instance, I paced myself and read a long book on my trip (North and Southt) and on Sunday found myself book less because I hadn’t gone to the library to stock up for my return reading afterwards. The reason? I do this odd thing of returning all library books, whether or not I’ve read them, before going on a trip. Even if it’s a just for a few days. I suppose my imagination believes I will fall into a black hole before my return and I don’t want to inconvenience the library of harboring missing books. As a result of my odd ritual of travel preps, I ended up with no book for my usual Sunday nap and read session. Ghastly, I know. On the positive side, it did free up some reflection time for books I have read this year because…

I have met my reading challenge of 50 books way before expected. 

Going through the list I created these stats for myself-I wonder if WordPress would consider loaning their stat monkeys out to GoodReads…

Total pages read:14, 288–I’m not sure if that is profound or pathetic

Average pages: 285–this balances fairly well, since I eclectically read books like The Little Prince, which is 11 pages, and then sit down with books like North and South, weighing in at around 500.

Most popular genre: this surprised me–I consider myself one who favors fiction and read non-fiction sparingly, yet I came up 11 non-fiction books! That’s getting upwards on my list. Gobstoppers! The other genres are 16 historical fiction/classics; Juvie/YA 13; and 12 for contemporary/popular. The numbers add up to 52, so obviously I counted one for two categories–no doubt those Darcy-type books snuck into the historical popular categories.

Fastest cover-to-cover: Little Prince–yet it’s not really a quick read, especially when I stop to investigate and reference all the lovely information found on so many LP dedicated sites.

Longest to read: those 500 page books do drag a bit, yet if they can keep the pace they go by quickly. Ink heart needed a firm editing in parts, considering it’s a Juvie, the pace moored down to boots in molasses at times–don’t kids prefer snap, crackle, action?

Most attractive cover:this is a toughie because attractive is so subjective, and there is that emotional aspect of expectancy involved–for now I’ll say Go Set a Watchman, due to it hearkening back to the original cover of TKAM, of which I am so fond.

Best jacket blurb: Slight Trick of the Mind–what would Sherlock be like in his waning years? I had to know.

Worst jacket blurb: this is actually my 51st book but it should have been the 50th (I won’t bother you with the details). The Guersney Literary and Potato Pie Society sounded like a quaint, character-driven epistolary novel about a quirky group of book boosters. However, as I became more involved in it, it became clear it was more of a historical reference on the Nazi occupation of Guernsey. I tend to shy away from these books having helped edit my mother’s own wartime memoir, and am now over-saturated with the destruction and sadness of this war. Light-hearted is what seemed promised, and what I really needed at that point in my schedule, and I end up crying upon learning about the further cruelty of WWII victims. It had lighter moments, but became too heavy in horrendous wartime details for my comfort.

Top five favorites:

  • The Great Gatsby–a reread and I truly appreciate the symbols and metaphors so much more now that I teach AP Literature. This time around it was on audio tape, although a newer version is needed (pops and skips *grr*)
  • A Slight Trick of the Mind (Mr Holmes)–Cullin truly treated Sherlock with dignity and the plot is quite plausible
  • The Bookseller–not a raging favorite read, but the premise is fascinating and a page-flipper
  • My Salinger Year–a lovely memoir of the yesteryear of publishing
  • The Little Prince–so charming, so profoundly simple

Anyone else in the midst of a Reading Challenge?

Overbooked


I have become a victim of over booking, and I have only myself to blame. No, I didn’t get postponed at the airport, or delayed at the restaurant. Actually, it’s all my fault I got caught in this dilemma. Life just happens sometimes, you know?

For the first time since fifth grade I am conscious of how many books I am reading this year. In fifth grade Mr. C, my fifth grade teacher, challenged us to read over the summer and bring him the list in fall. I think I read a 100 books–memory tends to fade the accuracy of details. I do recall the look of surprise when I trucked in my list on my way to sixth grade next door. I’d like to think I was the only one who took up his challenge. I would have read all summer anyway. Too bad I didn’t keep the list. It would be fun to revisit what I was interested in reading at eleven years old.

This year I have taken up the GoodReads Challenge and I am diligently marking off my books with reviews. My goal is 50 books, because I think I can manage that amount. I now realize how idealistic that amount might actually be. Therefore, my dilemma. I calculated I will need to read at least 4 books a month to hit my goal. And for honesty sake (former Campfire Girl) I will double or triple up on children’s books because they are so much shorter. Then again, does a 400 page plus book count as double? War and Peace count as triple? I’ll figure it out.

This is why I am currently reading 4 books 3 books (just finished the newest this morning).

  • In the car I’m listening to Lois Lowry’s Silent Boy, a mesmerizing story of a young girl, Kate, remembering back to the time she befriended Jacob, who everyone in town referred to as “touched.”
  • On the living room side table is Will in the World by Stephen Greenblatt. I have been gnawing away at this one for a while because it is so fabulously rich in content. I should just buy it, since I put a sticky marker in every other page. If you are interested in the texture of Shakespeare and his times, this is THE book to read. Probably explains why it earned National Book Award Finalist.
    • By the bed, and in the bookbag, and at school it’s a rereading Jane Eyre. As long as I teach it, I tend to read it. JE is one of favorite heroines, so it’s a pleasure, not a chore. In fact, there are times that I miss my Jane time because I get so busy I can’t sit down and relish her story. I am involved with this novel. I’m studying it, analyzing it, researching it, and most of all enjoying it. Again.
    • Back to four books. Make that five. Both holds came in: Way of the Peaceful Warrior (saw the movie and I’m curious) and The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller–a recommendation from one of my many book review blogs.
    • Actually six–I picked up Number the Stars by Lois Lowry as a reread.

Sigh. Anyone else overbooked this week?

The movie definitely got my attention… image: amazon.com

Will I be able to NOT think Brad Pitt as I read this? image: GoodReads

I have to read a Lois Lowry I haven’t liked image: Wikipedia

 

 

 

1/50: Bonhoeffer Abridged


It’s January and the month for resolutions, except I’m more for goals than resolutions. They just seem more positive in purpose (“I will get an agent in 2015”). Resolving to do something sounds like I really don’t want to do it, but might as well give it a try (“I resolve to go through the long, painful process of sending out manuscripts and query letters in my search for representation”). Maybe it’s just semantics.

So–one goal I have this year is to keep track of how many books I actually read in a year. Blogger Bud Valerie Lawson got me looking into it on my Good Reads account and I set up my challenge of 50 books. I roughly hit that last year after going through and counting my GR reviews.

image: amazon.com

 

 

 

As I attempt this challenge I’ll keep track of my numbers as I periodically share some of my reads. Most of my reviews are on my Good Reads account found on the right hand side of the blog. For instance, my first read of the year is by Eric Metaxas. His Bonhoeffer Abridged provides a fascinating overview about the man who did not back down from his beliefs and openly challenged Hitler and the Nazi regime. A more detailed review is found amongst my GR review collection.

Anyone out there up for taking on the Good Reads challenge? How many books do you think you can take on this year?

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: